Bill would require cleanup of future school sites

October 4, 2010
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LANSING — A new Senate bill is aimed at keeping schools from being built on contaminated soil.

The bill would require the owner or operator of a school to conduct an environmental assessment of the property to determine whether a cleanup is required. If the property had a large amount of hazardous substances, no school could be built there.

Jeff Minore, chief of staff for Sen. Michael Switalski, D-Roseville, said the proposal was prompted by a front-page article in USA Today about air quality testing near schools.

Hugh McDiarmid Jr., communications director of the Michigan Environmental Council, said, “This bill is one of many tools needed to clean up and redevelop new sites. Some poor school districts may want to build a school on contaminated land, so we have to be careful of that.”

The Michigan Environmental Council said polluters should be responsible and pay for any cleanup. “The polluted land won’t do anybody good; it won’t provide jobs or generate revenue. Sitting as vacant land, it’s no good for anyone,” McDiarmid said.

“The bureau has only been regulating school construction since 2003,” said Irvin Poke, director of Michigan’s Bureau of Construction Codes.

“There is not any requirement to be notified and we don’t do environmental assessments. We review the plans for construction and no one is obligated to report to us. If we knew of contamination, we would do future investigating, but there is no knowledge of school sites being contaminated,” Poke said.

“Environmental consultation is not the bureau’s responsibility,” he added.

The bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.

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